Mrs. Hallett lived in an excessively small, unheated hall bedroom, on the fourth floor of an enormous old house filled with the clatter of the elevated railroad. On the night of the inquirer’s call, she was pathetically concerned lest her visitor should catch cold because “she wasn’t used to it.” She lighted a small candle to show her the room, furnished with one straight hard chair, a cot, and a wash-stand with a broken pitcher, but with barely space besides for Mrs. Clark and her kind, public-spirited little hostess. They sat, drowned at times in the noise of the elevated, in almost complete darkness, as Mrs. Hallett insisted on making a vain effort to extract some heat for her guest from the single gas-jet, by attaching to it an extremely small gas-stove.
For this room, which was within walking distance of the candy factory, Mrs. Hallett paid $1.75 a week. Her breakfast of coffee and rolls in a bakery near by cost her 10 cents daily. She apportioned 15 or 25 cents each for her luncheon or dinner at restaurants. In her hungriest and most extravagant moments she lunched for 30 cents. Her allowance for food had to be meagre, because, as she had no laundry facilities, she was obliged to have her washing done outside. Sometimes she contrived to save a dollar a week toward buying clothing. But this meant living less tidily by having less washing done, or going hungrier. During the last year her expense for clothing had been a little more than $23: summer hat, $1; winter hat, $1.98; best hat, $2; shoes (2 pairs at $2.98, 2 pairs rubbers), $7.16; wrap (long coat), $2.98; skirt (a best black brilliantine, worn two years), at $5.50, $2.75; underskirt (black sateen), 98 cents; shirtwaist (black cotton, worn every day in the year), 98 cents; black tights, 98 cents; 2 union suits at $1.25 (one every other year), $1.25; 6 pairs stockings at 25 cents, $1.50; total, $23.56.
She said with deprecation that she sometimes went to the theatre with some young girl friends, paying 25 cents for a seat, “because I like a good time now and then.”
These trade fortunes represent as clearly as possible the usual industrial experience of the women workers in unskilled factory labor who gave accounts of their income and outlay in their work away from home in New York.
The chronicles printed below, taken from establishments of different kinds and grades, express as clearly as possible the several features most common to the trade fortunes the workers described—uncertain and seasonal employment, small exploitations, monotony in occupation, and fatigue from speeding.
Because of uncertain and seasonal employment, machine operatives in the New York sewing industries frequently change from one trade to another. This had been the experience of Yeddie Bruker, a young Hungarian white-goods worker living in the Bronx.